Theodore F. Randolph
Morris Co. Up


Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. II., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.

The New Jersey RANDOLPHs-or Fitz-RANDOLPHs, as they once wrote themselves-came to Middlesex county, New Jersey, from Barnstable, Massachusetts, in 1630, to which place they emigrated from Nottinghamshire, England, in 1622.  They were of the emigrants who left England for "consciences' sake"-a portion of those of that name landing at Massachusetts Bay and another portion in Virginia, during the years from 1621 to 1630.  The RANDOLPHs of England have had a prominent place in English history from early in the tenth century, as have those of Scotland, from whom "the Bruce" of Scottish history was descended.  All of the American RANDOLPHs are of English and Scottish stock, and all are directly descended from the "adventurers" who, sailing from England in 1621-30, landed in Massachusetts or Virginia.  Most of those thus came, and who had Scotch blood in them, wrote their name Fitz-RANDOLPH, while those of unmixed English blood retain the simple name of RANDOLPH.

Theodore F. RANDOLPH, the subject of this sketch, was born at New Brunswick, New Jersey, June 24, 1826.  His father, James F. RANDOLPH, was the founder of the Fredonian, and for forty years its editor.  He also filled many offices of public trust, among them being that of a representative in congress from 1824 to 1830.  The mother of Theodore was the daughter of Phineas CARMAN, and his grandparents were active Revolutionists during the war for independence.  Theodore F. RANDOLPH was educated at Rutgers grammar school, New Brunswick; entered upon mercantile life at sixteen years of age, and pent the succeeding ten years as a clerk, accountant, and principal in business, mostly in southern states.  During his school days he partly learned, in spare hours, to be a printer, and was also given a subordinate position in editorial work.  In 1852, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mr. RANDOLPH married a daughter of Hon. N.D. COLEMAN, a member of congress from the Maysville district, Kentucky.  The succeeding year he moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, and immediately thereafter to Jersey City, engaging in the business of mining coal and transporting iron and ores.  In 1859 he was elected from the first district of Jersey City to the house of assembly in the state legislature.  By his party friends he was tendered the speakership of the house at this session, and declined it.  The session of 1859-60 was the one immediately preceding the outbreak of the Civil War.  As a "war Democrat" Mr. RANDOLPH was placed on many important committees, among them the committee on federal relations, which reported at his suggestion the bill appointing commissioners to the peace congress of 1861.  The commission was strictly non-partisan, and included the leading statesmen of both political parties in New Jersey.  Mr. RANDOLPH was also a member of the special or war session of 1861, which convened April 30th. On the first of May he introduced and had passed the first bill giving relief to families of volunteers.  He also suggested and advocated many of the principal appropriation bills during this session.

In October, 1861, Mr. RANDOLPH was elected from the county of Hudson to the senate of the state to fill a vacancy, and thereafter was mainly in charge of legislation connected with the federal affairs during the session of 1861-2.  In August, 1862, Mr. RANDOLPH was re-elected to the senate of New Jersey for three years, receiving six thousand three hundred of the six thousand four hundred votes cast.  During this term, beginning with 1862, he was chairman and a member of the committees on finance, federal relations, taxations, etc.  He began during this term the advocacy of a more equitable system of taxation between corporations and the people, resulting somewhat later in powerful antagonisms to him.  He also led the opposition to a scheme by which the state was to be burdened with early ten million dollars of local bounties; and introduced and had passed the first relief bill which extended equal benefits and bounties to white and colored volunteers.

The office of state controller was created in 1865, at Mr. RANDOLPH's suggestion, the bills of the state amounting to many millions of dollars since the war had opened, suggesting this additional safeguard.  The creation of this office is said to have saved half a million dollars in the state during the first few years of its existence.

In 1867, Mr. RANDOLPH was elected president of the Morris & Essex Railroad Company, resigning the position, however, in 1869, upon his election as governor.  During his presidency there was completed the main line across the state to Pennsylvania; a branch road built to Chester; an extension made of the Montclair branch and the Boonton division branch, and the whole line was open to the coal and iron trade, nearly doubling in eighteen months the gross tonnage of the company and its money receipts, and advancing its securities largely.  He then negotiated the existing lease, by which the Morris & Essex stockholders are guaranteed in perpetuity seven per cent.  upon par value.

In January, 1869, Mr. RANDOLPH was sworn in office as governor of New Jersey.  His term of office-three years-was filled with unusual affairs, and they can only be rapidly alluded to.  His first message-at once after his inaugural-was aimed at the abolition of the so-called Camden & Amboy monopoly, which had substantially controlled state affairs during the previous thirty years.  At the outset of his administration, a law was put in force which forever abolished the :transit duties" on passengers and freight across New Jersey, and substantially concluded the hated railway monopoly agreement with the state.  The state public treasury, moreover, was largely benefited under the operation of the new law.

An effort, powerfully backed, was made in 1869 to "bond" certain cities and townships of the state, ostensibly to aid in railway construction.  Some favorable legislation had been obtained under a preceding administration, and the scheme presented in 1869 was the most specious and attractive as well as dangerous.  After a severe contest and several vetoes all these measures, involving many millions, were finally defeated by the governor.

During 1869 Governor RANDOLPH advocated and appointed the first riparian commission.  The labors of this body have given an income to the state of over three million dollars.

In 1879 he urged the passage of a system of general laws by which all special legislation should be avoided.  This system was finally adopted by the state.  The more noted recommendation of Governor RANDOLPH during 1870 was that which was contained in the annual and in special messages to the legislature touching the taxation of corporations.  In these he urged that corporate capital, being the possessor of special privileges, was peculiarly the subject of taxation.  These messages gave rise to much controversy.  During this period the legislature gave authority to the governor to appoint a commission to remodel the state house, and he was the president of that commission, which began and completed the work.  The state prison inmates had been a source of huge cost to the treasurer for many years prior to this administration.  The shops were enlarged, the business carried on in them reformed and during this gubernatorial term a saving to the state of more than one hundred thousand dollars was effected.  A disturbance known as the Berger riots occurred during 1870.  Large bodies of men were opposing each other and hundreds of trains were delayed.  The riot was quelled by the governor without serious injury to any one, and the conflicting railway companies were brought into court to settle their difficulties.

The legislative session of 1871 was a noted one, principally on account of the passage of "an act to reorganize the government of Jersey City."  The act was vetoed by Governor RANDOLPH in a message of unusual severity.  It was finally passed by a strict partisan majority over the veto.  Within sixteen months its principal advocate was in state prison, and Jersey City has ever since been oppressed by wrongs which that charter made possible.  The "election bribery law," which was most effectively enforced in every county of the state by Governor RANDOLPH, was written by him and urged upon and passed by the legislature during this session.

Of other public acts of this period the most memorable one, perhaps, is that known as the Orange proclamation.  It was occasioned by the decision of a body of Orangemen to parade in Jersey City on their anniversary day (July 12th), which action was promptly met by others proposing to prevent the parade.  A highly excited condition of affairs in New York city irritated, no doubt, the contending parties in New Jersey.  Large bodies of men were known to be gathering for unfriendly purposes, and Governor RANDOLPH, acting upon established information, finally issued the so-called Orange proclamation.  It asserted the right of peaceful assemblage by citizens, irrespective of nationality, creed, or religion.  It warned all people against the interference with such right.  It commanded all officers to enforce the laws, and, though closing with a rebuke to the Orangemen for reviving an unnecessary religious and political feud, of no general interest to Americans, it was assured the people that the right of assemblage would be asserted and protected "at any cost."  The proclamation was followed by an order for state troops to the number of three thousand.  The laws were enforced.  No serious injury came to any person in New Jersey, although, from causes of the same and occurring at the same hours, on the New York side of the Hudson many lives were unfortunately lost.

Upon the recommendation of Governor RANDOLPH the legislature during 1869 gave authority for the purchase, with the governor's approval, of a site for a new lunatic asylum.  He approved of a site near Morris Plains, and took an earnest and active part in the construction of the great edifice till its completion and occupancy.

The great fire at Chicago occurred during Mr. RANDOLPH's administration which was responded to so promptly and generously by the people of New Jersey that car-loads of clothing and provisions, and thousands of dollars, were en route to Chicago before the flames were subdued.

An interesting and novel case occurred toward the close of his administration.  The chancellor summoned Governor RANDOLPH to appear before him in court to answer touching the executive action on a certain legislative bill, which it was claimed should have been filed with the state department and thus become law.  The governor denied the power of the chancellor to inquire into executive action or non-action; a long controversy occurred, the governor maintaining throughout that the executive was amenable alone- as to his official acts-to the legislature.

In 1875, Mr. RANDOLPH was elected to the senate of the United States, in which he served the term of six years.  Much of this time he was chairman of the military committee, and all the time was a member of the committee on commerce.  He was on various other committees, as those of education, civil-service reform, and the centennial exhibition, and was also on a special senate committee appointed to examine political frauds in South Carolina.  His speeches-not many in number-were upon the count of the election vote, the centennial exhibition, the bi-metallic and other financial questions, the case of General Fitz John Porter, the use of troops at polling places, etc.  They are of recent history and therefore do not need special reference.  The speech upon mono-metalism had an especially large publication and circulation.

Mr. RANDOLPH has filled other positions not herein enumerated; as a delegate to national and state conventions; chairman of the executive Democratic committee; president of the Washington Headquarters Association, of which he is one of the founders; trustee of the Rutgers College and other institutions, and director of many corporations and institutions of which no record has been given us.

Transcribed by Christopher Cresta


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